High Court clarifies its powers upon a statutory review of an inquest

In HM Senior Coroner for South London v HM Assistant Coroner for South London [2022] EWHC 1388 (Admin), the High Court, comprised of Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Heather Williams DBE, clarified the powers available to the court upon a statutory review of an inquest pursuant to Section 13 of the Coroners' Act 1988.

The text of s.13(2)(c) was amended in 2013 by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, to read:

"The High Court may… where an inquest has been held, quash any inquisition on, or determination or finding made at that inquest" (new text emphasised)

The High Court concluded that where an inquest's conclusion is quashed, it is not necessary to require a fresh inquest to be held, and it is open to the court to remit the matter back to a new coroner for reconsideration of the conclusion, based on the evidence already elicited by the inquest.

The decision also reaffirmed that a court considering a Section 13 statutory review has no power to simply amend an inquest's conclusion, or substitute its own conclusion. That is in contrast to the court's broader powers upon a judicial review of an inquest's conclusion.

However, the court did go on to indicate that there was only one conclusion reasonably open to the coroner on the evidence that had been put before the court.

Scarlett Milligan, instructed by Browne Jacobson LLP, acted for the Applicant.